Was Hamlet really insane





One of the most asked questions concerning Hamlet, is whether or not during the play he was actually insane or merely acting. This issue is confusing because Hamlet states that he will act insane to exact revenge upon Claudius after he has met his father’s supposed ghost. However, there are many times during the play where it seems Hamlet could not possibly be acting. But while it is possible to be sane and act insane, by definition it is impossible to be insane and act sane because an insane person lacks the ability to reason and tell the difference between right and wrong. Since Hamlet exhibited both these characteristics throughout the play, it is obvious that he was sane.

Hamlet displays the ability to reason on several occasions. The first display occurs in the beginning, when Hamlet expresses his doubts about whether the ghost he saw was really his father: "The spirit that I have seen / May be the devil, and the devil hath power / T\' assume a pleasing shape," (2.2.627-629), and whether the supposed ghost was merely telling him what he wanted to hear: "Yea, and perhaps, / out of my weakness and my melancholy, / … / Abuses me to damn me," (2.2.629-632). Hamlet has the sense to question the identity of the ghost. He realizes although it does look like his father, appearance isn’t everything, and it might have been a demon trying to trick him into committing a deadly sin, namely, killing Claudius. Hamlet would only have been able to reason this if he had been in full control of his mental capacities.

To test whether indeed the ghost was telling the truth, Hamlet has players perform a play before Claudius and the rest of the cast with events similar to the ones the ghost described to him. "I\'ll have these players / Play something like the murder of my father / Before mine uncle. I\'ll observe his looks," (2.2.623-625). Hamlet reasons that if the ghost is telling the truth, then Claudius will give away his guilt through his facial expression when he sees the play. No man who is insane could have thought up such a plan.

Hamlet again displays the ability to reason when he goes to talk to his mother about his plan for revenge. Hamlet reveals to his mother that he is aware of Claudius\'s attempt to send him to his death in England: "There\'s letters seal\'d: and my two schoolfellows, / Whom I will trust as I will adders fang\'d, / They bear the mandate; they must sweep my way, / And marshal me to knavery." (3.4.225-228). This shows that Hamlet is aware of what is occurring around him and he possesses the ability to analyze the actions of others and discover the secret plots that are lain against him. An insane man would have such sharp sense of the secret plans everywhere.

Hamlet\'s final display of his ability to reason occurs before his fencing match. Hamlet is talking about death with Horatio and about his eminent fight with Laertes:
“ There is (a) special
providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, \'tis
not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it
be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all. Since
no man of aught he leaves knows, what is \'t to leave
betimes?” (5.2.233-238).

Hamlet states that death will occur when it wants to and there is nothing you can do about it. His statements show that Hamlet has the ability to reason and contemplate death.

Hamlet also gives proof that he understands the difference between right and wrong, another important characteristic of sanity, throughout the play. Hamlet first reveals this knowledge when he plans the "Mousetrap" to try to determine Claudius’ guilt by judging his reaction to the play:

"There is a play to-night before the king;
One scene of it comes near the circumstance
Which I have told thee of my father\'s death:
I prithee, when thou seest that act afoot,
Even with the very comment of thy soul
Observe mine uncle: if his occulted guilt
Do not itself unkennel in one speech,
It is a damned ghost that we have seen,"(3.2.74-81)

Hamlet does this because he does not want to kill Claudius unless he has some evidence that Claudius is